Month: September 2014

I against Them

I am sure you do not know me well, but I will tell you about this party I went to anyway.

It was a housewarming party on a surprisingly warm October day in New York. The house was in Midtown, the place where you find the most nauseating conformists per square meter than anywhere else in the world. It was, as you might expect, a high rent high rise high class apartment complex made for the quintessentially simple, the smart sheep, if you will, who know enough math and algorithms to create efficient maps of the world much bigger than the world itself is, yet know not why they exist (yes, this is an intentional and self aware sentence, so save the sarcasm if you’re bringing that out).

After I arrived an hour late only to know that I was the first to reach, and the only one to care about time, I was greeted by this old acquaintance of mine, and also the host of the party, who always keeps me guessing whether what he is saying to me is because of some invisible camera staring at him, or because he actually talks like that, and showed me to the balcony of the apartment on the eleventh floor, where a couple of women and his roommate were having wine, cheese and platitudes. I hadn’t even the chance to repeat the name of the talker to myself, the sister of the roommate’s girlfriend (the other woman), before I knew how she had married a guy only for his money and was proud of their mutual and unconscious banality.

I was then taken to the roof (it was great, I was told, and I had not brought my sunglasses) where we were joined in due time by the other androids. A couple of girls showed up drunk, with their make up off and their irreverence on, confused whether they were flirting or not. They were later thrown/shown out of the housewarming party of ten people. I need not insult the reader’s intelligence here but I want to explicitly mention that in this party, there were no friends, or even merely acquaintances, but people so much in love with themselves that all they could think about was I: I on the roof of a high rise; I on the blurb of a book; I on the door of a room of a very important office; I on top of a wo/man with a nice body and blue eyes; I on a treadmill; I on the top of the human pyramid; I on everyone’s minds. They were all terribly alone, but they did not know how to write or think honestly about themselves, so they wrote books on Javascript, ASP, The Art of Attack, How to Invest like Me between putting on those expensive shoes to go to rooftop bars with expensive drinks and lights that make you look good, but only until your make up melts or you open your mouth.

Then they talked about their protein shakes, their body fascism, their latest disruptive and innovative startup ideas, exposing their ideas of life sans any vital melancholy, their thought sans any humanity, their laugh sans any sincerity, their eyes shifting furiously from one person to another seeking approval in a frenzied, desperate, relentless manner. I felt sad, and offered them some pity, but that wasn’t what they were craving, no, they were craving their mothers, they were craving that somebody love them without gauging where they would be in five years, that somebody open their embrace to them so that they can remember how it feels to cry.

The Ingrates

“I honestly hate my parents.”

“That is a very strong statement. I am sure you love them, what happened? Anything wrong between you guys?”

“My accusations are not light, man. My hate is not curable. They have made me slip into an abyss of lifetime bondage, stripped me of my freedoms throughout the time I was growing up. I wonder how much more liberated I would’ve been had they been a little better.”

“You seem plenty liberated to me, and also seem to be a very reasonable and balanced man. So much so, that this is the most absurd I’ve seen you act in a long time.”

“That is not due to them, that is despite them. They have been merely trying to raise me in their own image, I owe nothing of my character to them.”

“That’s a ludicrous statement! Surely, they could have imposed their view of the world and their expectations on you, but that does not mean that your character wasn’t shaped because of it. People are defined and made by their reactions to the constraints and assumptions laid by the environment around them. You turned out to be a rebel, sure, but you are still rebelling against them, and thus, being defined by them.”

“That’s clever… and circular. No matter what I do, I will be defined by them, right? Your theory leaves nothing to me.”

“It leaves reconciliation to you.”

“Are you saying that the only decision about myself that I can make that would be completely my own is to accept them as they are? Are we even talking about the same thing? I am telling you about the innumerable instances of repression, suppression, guilt, shame and sorrow I have felt because I couldn’t meet their expectations, because I couldn’t live up to the image that wanted I would be. Like the one instance where I misread my examination time tables and prepared for the wrong exam and scored less, and my mother called me a failure for this. I mean, it was a mistake, a small, genuine, everyday mistake.”

“To me, it only shows how emotionally invested she was in you.”

“She didn’t need to be, it was traumatizing. This is what I am talking about, this is bad parenting. This is why I wonder what would’ve changed if she didn’t make such stupid mistakes with her child.”

“I think you answered your own question. It was a parenting mistake on her part, nothing more. If you want her to have forgiven yours, I expect you should return the favor.”

“I could if it were just one. If the whole process was more mistakes than not, then I cannot forgive something that so tangibly changed my life.”

“I want to hear more. I want to hear other cases of how she or they, was it just her who did that, traumatized you. I want to know if you are being needlessly whiny or if you have any substance behind your frustrations with yourself.”

“It doesn’t have to be overt, I hope you understand that, or this conversation will go nowhere. I don’t care as much about the beatings I received as I do about the dogma and indoctrination. I borrowed their hate for Muslims, I borrowed their paranoia, suffered endlessly because of it. I also borrowed their unquestioned belief in god, their superstitions, some in the name of culture while others purely out of habit.”

“So you are blaming them for being who they are?”

“Yes. Why couldn’t they be liberal atheists, who knew what kind of books to read and what kind of movies to watch?”

“Ha! At least their behavior is justified in most instances, unlike yours in this. They hated Muslims because they were driven out of their homeland and their friends were slaughtered because of a religious movement. While it may not be best to harp upon that feeling, the resentment is still justified. Do you not remember the moments you were bullied in school? Do you still not harbor a hate for that bully, and for that matter, all bullies?
“Their belief in god remained unquestioned because they were not exposed to much science, and definitely not as much as you have been. I should also remark that it is due to them that you have been exposed to so much science, for although they might not have been the best at science themselves, they actively wanted you to be great at it. Not because you would question god for them, but because they wanted the best for you. Isn’t it so?”

“You do have a point. They were as much a product of their environment as I am of mine, and now I see why you said what you said about reconciliation.”

“I am glad you do. This is how progress happens, not because people do what they do with a clear knowledge of what they want to attain, but because they love. Your parents loved you, wanted the best for you, did whatever they thought was the best for you, and egged you on to do the things you fell in love with.

“This is the same for everyone’s parents, look at mine, for instance, they have done a lot for me. They did pay, despite not earning too much, for my swimming classes. They also paid quite a significant percentage of their monthly income to ensure I went to one of the better schools.
“They actually lived a life of extreme frugality themselves while splurging to give me the most comfortable life they could afford to give me. Now that I think about it, they rarely bought any new clothes themselves, they never bought new furniture other than the one instance when it was a table for my studies. Only the other day, I was cursing my parents’ frugality, wishing they were more intelligent with their money, spending it to increase their standards of living rather than stashing it for eternity, all the while not realizing that what was once a necessity, borne solely out of the desire to nourish me, had now become a habit.
“My father had to buy a pair of shoes for himself once. His old shoes had worn out significantly and since he avoided hailing an auto-rickshaw to save money, he needed to walk quite a lot. He needed good shoes. Paying Rs. 500 for a good shoe wasn’t that high an expense, he had bought shoes for me that were twice as expensive. But I remember him scrounging around the market ceaselessly to search for a shoe that was both good and inexpensive. He eventually settled on a Rs. 100 shoe that had a sole with holes under the insole (to save costs of by cutting down on material). I wore that to a game once and my feet killed me at the end of the day. I told him he was stupid for buying this shoe, that he was a miser…
“I haven’t been able to forgive myself for that sorrowful look he had on his face for disappointing me that day. I don’t think I will ever be able to. Why did he buy those shoes? What was the reason? It was I, dear sir, I was the reason. I was what had manifested in him this austerity. And yet, he was the disappointment. Is that fair?

“I think I hate my parents. They have stripped me of my freedom. And this is not your teenage angst whining about how they didn’t let me choose my own T-Shirt color. It is the kind of freedom that Sartre gained when he realized the frivolity of his existence and its inherent meaninglessness, the most essential of human freedoms, Freedom with a capital F, the Freedom that comes from an indifference and detachment to any purpose whatsoever. The reason I cannot have this Freedom is because no matter what I do, I can never be grateful enough. That whatever I do to repay them will fall short. The worst part is that they don’t even expect me to do anything for them. This is how they get their revenge, how they make me suffer for the sorrows I caused them because of my expectations of what they should’ve been and should’ve done.
“I probably would have been much better with parents that didn’t care, that didn’t recognize me soon after they’d given birth to me, like the cartoon ducklings that get lost and create their own father figures who give them nothing in return but a chase.
I hate my parents.”

Beating the dusty carpet

I am planning to write for a month from 12-1 every night, to get into the habit of writing. Just like at this moment, there would be moments where I would be at a complete loss to come up with anything remotely substantial or beautiful. Since I still want to publish these as a marker of my progress, I would clump them in the category: Garbage.

All this lack is not for lack of thought, distress, or discomfort. It is because I have been procrastinating, not only the things that I need to do, but also the things that I need to think. It is a mental lethargy, driven mainly by a fear of encountering a truth I might not be ready for, I assume. But this is no way to deal with a phobia, this is just avoidance behavior that lends to merely aggravate the phobia. I have to slowly familiarize myself with my fears, talk to them, talk about them (to myself of course), understand them and then either weed them out, or learn to live well with them.

We all suffer from these cycles of self-assessment, during which our self-worth is either way exaggerated, or completely marginalized. I aim to get out of this endless repetition, stop thinking of what I am worth, for it leads to nothing but misery and wasted time, and involve myself in either a fulfilling hedonism, or an equally fulfilling process of learning and creation. This is not to say that I would stop analyzing my actions or my existence and its relation to and place in the world around it, but that I would not bother to give myself a score based on this analysis. It would be an essay, with an enormous amount of editing, devoid of any assessment of the essay itself. A critical reconciliation of sorts, with ample scope for change.

Once this is achieved, or is being achieved, I believe the other forestalled items on my to-do list will start to begin and, hopefully, end.

I do feel slightly sad at finding myself at a loss of words with plenty time to spare, like a promising date with a girl that ends up in a dejected silence because you have run out of things to say and she is not bothered enough to engage.

But never mind! There are plenty of girls in the world. The next date will be great: it will have a genuine conversation, an unspoken but unmistakable romance, casual laughs, and that glorious feeling when you are sure the conversation didn’t start that night, that it had always been there, beginning again from where you left it.